parenting Q&A: More children or not? Consider your feelings, too, when planning the size of your family
My hubby and I are contemplating staying with just two children rather than going for a third. We have the finances and space for three. What are the general differences (if one can speculate) in family dynamics for the children... having one sibling or two? And further division of parental time? (Dad works 60 hours per week, Mom works about 15 hours per week). Thanks.
It’s nice that you and your husband have options to consider. It would be great to hear from readers what their experiences have been growing up in different-sized families and also what has gone into thinking through their own family structure.
Here’s the deceptively simple question: Do you want another child? It’s hard to tell from your letter whether you are trying to be logical, to justify a strong wish to have a third child. Or if you are reluctant, but feel you should have another since you can afford it and are available for caretaking.
A wish for a child is never a simple thing. It is bound up in deep biological imperatives to ensure the continuation of the species; our earliest ideas of being a woman or a man can be formed around having a baby, since it's grownups who have children.
Whether we actually have children or not, the adult phase of parenthood, where we care for and nurture someone or something beyond ourselves, is a central part of the personal development that continues throughout life. The majority of people enter and consolidate that phase of their adult development by bearing or rearing children.
We’ve all seen the financial projections that calculate the cost of raising a child, so we know that it's a considerable burden to take on. And everyone knows that parenting is hard work that leaves parents vulnerable to worry and disappointment. Parents who have external struggles to find enough food for their families, or internal obstacles to safe and satisfying experiences, perhaps through their own hard life histories of deprivation or abuse, may have a difficult time enjoying the role.
Yet these issues are usually trumped by the enormous, irrational, satisfying experience of loving babies and children. Loving someone else expands the self. Even when attention is more divided with each additional child, love grows to fill the additional need. It’s sad when people think that love is like a pizza, with only so many slices to go around. Instead, the more you love, the more you have to give.
Whether you have another biological child or not, or think about adopting a needy child whose parents did not have enough options, there are always logical arguments for and against most decisions. When you are thinking about something important, don’t forget to include your feelings in the process of choosing your course of action.
I wish you well as your family develops!
Kerry Kelly Novick is a local child, adolescent and adult psychoanalyst, and author, with Jack Novick, of "Emotional Muscle: Strong Parents, Strong Children," available at amazon.com or through